July 18, 2024

I’ve always been one to plan things out, make itineraries, or even block out my entire week of what I am to do. It’s my way of always knowing what is coming so I am not surprised or fall behind. I’m obligated to finish things so I can start something new the next day. However, this routine, as comforting as it can be, also sticks me in a rut where I can almost never take a minute to stop and enjoy a beautiful moment.

It was the Friday before last when I was out on a kayak going to collect some snails for a group independent project on an island just seconds away from Duke Marine Lab. The weather was absolutely perfect, pelicans were swooping just beyond the pier, and the tide was with us. I was accompanied by one of my friends and project group members, Marcus. As we collected snails out in the marshes of the Rachel Carson Reserve’s Carrot Island, we sat in the sun, talking about this and that.

We both were not Duke students, with me from Wittenberg and he from Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. So, naturally, we felt comfortable talking to one another about how we felt a little outside from the rest of the marine lab clan and how we traditionally fell into the antisocial group. I expressed how it was hard for me to usually work in groups because I always had a plan already before a project might even be assigned, and he told me that was insane.

At first, I was insulted, thinking he was criticizing my academic drive and passion for getting things accomplished to the best of my ability. However, I was wrong. Marcus admired my ambition, and he had taken notice of my habit of wanting to always be going forward. I thanked him for that, but then he said something that suddenly sent off clicks in my head, like I had been going about a part of life completely wonky.

“I see how you are always going forward, looking for what to do next on your list of to-dos. And that’s fine, but only to a limit. You need to step back and enjoy life. I mean, look around you. You are in an absolutely beautiful environment that you only get to experience once. If you’re always working forward and looking down as you move, you never get to see the view on the horizon,” Marcus said. “Just stop. Stand and look around you for a bit.”

So, I did. I looked around. I looked out onto the skyline and watched the waves roll onto the beach, crashing and crushing, making the sand pipers scurry and flee. I smile at their little skuttle.

Marcus and I finished with our snails and walked back to where we landed our kayaks. As we arrive, he stops me and points. Four wild horses trot out of the trees just 50 feet from us and onto the beach. Their manes and coats glisten in the sun, and their aura just radiates freedom and life. So, naturally, we stand there and take a minute. We watch them graze and move slowly about with no agenda.

As the rest of my weekend unfolded, I continuously thought of our conversation. I remembered the words as my parents and I wandered the beaches of Cape Lookout with not a human soul in three miles. It was us, the dolphins, and the lighthouse looking down at us with its bright eye. I recalled the words again as I watched cars and boats go by in the town of Beaufort as I enjoyed coffee and a breakfast sandwich. And, once again, they came to me during the bonfire on the last night of our break before classes resumed.

Each time the words revisited my heart, I remember not wanting the moment to end. Not having an agenda or a task at hand felt liberating. From now on, not only will I work my hardest to achieve my academic dreams, but to gain some time to myself to appreciate what’s before me, wherever my path might lead, and there’s bound to be some good sights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *